Tuesday, June 30, 2015

From caterpillar to monarch

A monarch caterpillar changes a lot from the moment it emerges from its egg to the moments before it enters its chrysalis. It eats and grows 2,700 times larger than it originally started out.

Then, it has the urge to change. I can’t imagine it knows exactly what’s happening, but it understands that it can’t keep eating and stay the same. It knows deep down that it isn’t supposed to live like this forever.

It creates a web, grabbing hold of the only home it’s ever known, probably a milkweed plant, and it puts its trust in a small black piece that is securing it to its habitat.

It starts to shake. It’s a scary moment when change is upon you, and it fights the change for a little bit. It quickly realizes that the change is inevitable if it wants to live, and it begins to shed off its skin. It doesn’t feel the greatest, I’m sure, to rip off its outer covering, and it’s trusting that the next stage is going to be better than what it has now.

It pulls up a new green shield, and it wears this shield for a little while, while it learns what it takes to be successful in the next stage.

Pretty soon, that monarch is going to hatch. It’s just a baby, but it’s going to learn that it needs to pump liquid into its wings and that it will eventually have to trust those wings and take flight.

That caterpillar didn’t know when it started to feel the need for a change what it would turn out to be, but it trusted and jumped and went through the pain to become something beautiful.

Thank you God that we know that even when we have to go through pain to shirk off our human skin, we know that what you have in store is so much better and so much more beautiful.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Where is society heading?

Whew --- what a week for Christians.

I'm not going to get into the whole homosexual marriage debate. I do however want to talk about our culture today.

There is a lot going on in America to make sure that everyone and everything is accepted. It's been happening for about 100 years. Some is good, and some is not so good. But where do you draw the line?

It seems like we're on the way to just saying everything is OK, whether it's right or wrong.

I guess all the changes in culture were just on my mind anyway, because my Bible reading has led me into Judges. That book is basically a back-and-forth between Israel and God. Israel rebels and starts following false gods and doing "what is good in everyone's eyes." Then something bad happens, and the people want to follow the real God again. Their leader dies, and they start to follow false gods and do "what is right in everyone's eyes." Then they need God and ask for his help again. And back and forth is goes.

Then I read a passage where that stopped. Basically, God got fed up. He said, "No. You've had your chances and you keep turning your back on me. You're done. I'm done. Deal with it yourselves."

I feel like this is where our culture is heading. When the U.S.A. started, the leaders of the country followed God. Then the citizens started to rebel and are now at the point of doing "what's right in everyone's eyes." I can't imagine it's going to be too much longer before God goes, "No. You're done. I'm done."

When I see what's happening in the U.S.A., it brings tears to my eyes. I just keep saying, "I'm sorry, Lord." I can't imagine how painful it is for him to see his children rebel so much, in so many different ways. So many things in our culture today are accepted and expected --- and they shouldn't be.

I think we need to re-establish right and wrong in society, whether for Christians or non-Christians. There is a such thing as right and wrong. That is OK. We should be able to establish the right and wrong and stand up for those ideals. Otherwise, we're at a place where we are going to have to deal with our actions and pay for our mistakes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Northern Lights

I got a call at 1 a.m. from my husband, and I groggily answered.

"I'm watching the Northern Lights," he said.

"I've always wanted to see those; I'll go look," I said.

"You're going to come? I'll wait at the pumphouse then," he said, his voice perking up.

I got into the car and tried to wake up as I drove a few miles to the lake. I couldn't see anything right when I got out of the car, but Nate said I just needed to wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark light.

Then I saw them. The horizon turned a light green color, and waves passed through every few seconds or so.

The dark sky was lit up with stars and with the Northern Lights, and I just soaked up the beauty standing next to my husband.

That's when I realized what day it was.

"Happy birthday," I said, smiling.


"I'm glad you called."

"I debated for a long time about waking you up."

"I'm glad you did."

Life is often about saying "Yes." Instead of staying home, get out of bed and enjoy those spontaneous moments you won't forget. Go check out those Northern Lights.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A sluggard's attitude

I sometimes do have lazy tendencies. I'm not always moving or doing or cleaning; I often love to just chill in front of the TV.

However, I wouldn't consider myself a sluggard. That is the definition of lazy in the Bible, and verses basically say that sluggards get what they deserve. They don't get to eat because they don't work. They're foolish people who don't look beyond their desire to chill or sleep in.

Overall, I'm not a sluggard. But I started to break it down into different parts of life. Even if I'm not a sluggard overall, I'm definitely a sluggard in some parts of life. And one of those parts is my spirituality.

Instead of doing my daily Bible reading, I often just go to sleep, just like a sluggard avoids work. Instead of praying, I say a quick "thank you" and turn on the TV. Instead of taking time to help someone, I just think of all the things on my to-do list, which could be done a lot faster if I just buckled down and did it.

There are lots of places we can be sluggards --- relationships, home chores, saving money. In each of those places, we have to remember that if we don't put in enough work and dedication, we get what we sow. And if we don't sow, we don't get anything.

So even if you're not a sluggard overall, where does your slothfulness hide?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Extra effort to make a difference

I just finished "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan, and after each chapter he writes a biography of an amazing Christian.

Most of these people were famous for ministry work, and Chan encouraged people in the book to really search how they are making a difference for God. What would your biography look like after one of those chapters.

Of course, it made me think what legacy I'm leaving behind. I don't have any children, haven't taken care of orphans, haven't moved to a foreign country, haven't started a ministry, haven't sold my house to give the money to the poor. Unfortunately, we are too selfish at this point to have children, and we use our extra funds to have fun and travel while paying off loans. It doesn't sound like we're worthy of a biography in that book.

But then I started to think about where I am. I think I can make a difference right where I am, although I'm not always sure that I am.

We so often focus on the homeless, the hungry, the orphans, the poor --- those are the people we're encouraged to reach out to. However, there are not a ton of people that fit that description where I live. So how do I make a difference?

I decided that instead of feeling guilty that we haven't started a ministry or moved to a foreign country to care for orphans, I would do the best with where I truly think God has put us.

I work with a lot of senior citizens with my volunteer coordinator position, and I have always felt called to be friends with seniors. I think they have so many wonderful stories to tell and so many lessons to share. Yet, so often, these people are overlooked and thought of as unimportant because their prime was long ago.

One of my best friends in my life was a man named Jack. Jack was in his 80s, and yet we corresponded daily and weekly via e-mail. He never felt like he was worth my time. Yet, he showed me so much and gave me so much advice and taught me so many lessons. He was truly a wonderful man.

He was worth getting to know. And you know what? Our volunteers at work are worth getting to know, and they are worth the effort. I love spending time with them, and maybe I can make a difference in their lives.

So I figured, maybe I just need to put in a little extra effort. Maybe instead of just seeing them at work I need to build these relationships outside of the office at well. If they know that I'm not just using them for their volunteerism, maybe that will make a difference to them. Maybe if I share a conversation, a meal, a prayer, they will be able to see that I care about them and will wonder why I care about them beyond my job.

It's difficult when it comes to building relationships with those you work with outside of work, because I know I'm not supposed to get my faith mixed up with work. However, it is. My faith is mixed up in all of my life. How do I get to know these wonderful people and not talk to them about God?

I guess I leave those conversations for outside of work, when I see them as just me, and not work-me. That means, though, that I have to reach out outside of work. I have to continue these relationships, and that means a little extra work. I need to make sure that I am doing the most with what God has given me right now, right where I am, right where he wants me to be.

There's a reason we're still here, and we need to make the most of it --- however, He sees fit.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A positive, bad dream

The other night I had a bad dream --- I don't remember exactly what was happening but I was scared of something/someone.

In the dream I started singing "Jesus, name above all names..." and the fear went away.

I half woke up at that point, surprised that I dealt with fear by focusing on God and quite pleased that's where my subconscious took me when I was scared while asleep.

Now, if only I dealt with stress and fear in my awake life the same way. I obviously know it's the best way to handle things, but sometimes my consciousness gets in the way.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Seinfeld spontaneity

Because I have to work this weekend, I was able to take a day off in the middle of the week. Since Thursday was my only day without something scheduled, I decided that would be my free day.

"I wish I had known, then we could have gone to see Jerry Seinfeld," Nate said.

A few months before, some of our friends asked if we wanted to go with them to see Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up comedy. However, it was in a town a couple of hours away, and I didn't want to drive that far when I had to work the following morning.

This changed things up though, and Nate ended up finding some last-minute nosebleed tickets that we could have.

So, in last-minute planning, we ended up heading south to see Seinfeld with friends.

On the way, we found out the only person in our foursome that was supposed to work the next day had also gotten a day off due to a funeral.

"We should have just spent the night since none of us have to work," she said.

I started to look up to see if any last-minute deals could be found online, but it seemed like $120 was the cheapest room close to where the show was. I told the others in the car, and our friend said she only had one-day contacts and couldn't see without them. Her husband started to talk about how he likes to have a little more of a plan.

I used to be like that, but a few moments of greatness thanks to spontaneity have made me a believer in spur-of-the-moment activities. But we let it go.

However, at dinner, the topic of staying the night again came up. I looked at our friend and asked if she could deal with being blind for the drive home before she could get her new contacts. Her husband suggested that a little contact solution might make it worthwhile.

So a quick hotel booking on Orbitz, a trip to Target for contact supplies, a hilarious Seinfeld show and a spontaneous night on the town --- what a wonderful Wednesday night.

Spontaneity created a night of memories. Next time you have the chance to do something on the spur-of-the-moment, don't let your need to plan get in the way. Just go with it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Life is not about full-time ministry

Is ordinary work important work?

That is certainly a question we all struggle with. I think many Christian children are brought up to think only full-time Christian ministry was work for God, and that was what serious Christians did. But that is not necessarily true. There are lots of vocations needed that aren't churchwork.

1 Corinthians 7:17 says, "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him."

Even Jesus gave value to ordinary work. Yes, he gave three years to full-time ministry, but for much longer he worked as a carpenter. If that was valueless, he certainly would not have done it. If he is our perfect example, it shows ordinary work is also important, when if we are capable of so much more, like Jesus was.
Ordinary work is the way we can reach people; we can love them through our regular work. When we put in effort and serve others through our everyday jobs, it is important and impactful.

This actually goes back to the original topic of my blog. I wanted to talk about the importance of everyday moments. Work is everyday. It is every day. It is a collection of little moments in which we can make a difference. It is all in how you look at your work. If you see your ordinary work as a way to serve and worship God, you can make a difference and you can shine in the eyes of God.

My best friend's dad farmed all the years she was growing up. He worked diligently. He helped provide food for thousands of people. He provided jobs. He provided a good influence on his employees. He was gifted in that area, and that was where God needed him. Out was ordinary work that turned into a lifetime of everyday moments that were acts of worship.

We've heard the passage of the Bible about how we are all parts of a body and together we are a complete being in the church --- that's what makes the church work. But that's also outside of the church. We are all gifted in different ways, and God gifted us for work, for different jobs, so we can make a difference in our daily lives. We need Christians in different jobs to make society work. I like that the pastor said, "Some of God's best work is done by people in ordinary work, not church work."

This week's memory verse is James 4:7-8: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

God oversees all

We pulled up to Krystal's house, and the "It's a Boy" sign on the front door noted the extreme joy and exhaustion that were at home inside.

I thought it would be weird to see my first college friend with a baby, but when the little guy was curled up on her chest and she lightly tapped his back to try to get him to burp, it seemed completely normal. She looked like she was supposed to be a mother, and her husband looked completely at home holding his son and swaying him back and forth.

Then my best friend took a turn holding the three-day-old infant, and her face just lit up. The baby growing inside of her is going to be in wonderful hands in just a few months.

Life and its changes are certainly interesting. And what is even more interesting is the fact that God knows exactly what is going to happen while we walk around shocked at where our lives turn out. I didn't think that I would end up in a small town away from where I grew up, at ages 27 with no kids, working in the conservation field, married to my high school sweetheart and living in an old craftsman home. This is not where 8-year-old me would have thought my life would be at this point, but I absolutely love it.

Krystal and her husband have already had stresses of parenthood and the scares that come along with it. Even putting their little guy down at night, they worry that he might not be able to cough should he get spit-up caught in his throat. She said they have to remember that God is bigger than those "little" things and that he loves their son even more than they do.

Our God is an awesome God who is in charge of every little thing, from new babies to changing jobs to growing gardens. His eye is on the sparrow and the infants of the world. His eye is on the 20-something adults and the senior citizens and those who are the brink of death. In all our phases of life, he is there and he is greater.

I'm thankful for that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Asparagus memories

My co-worker looked over at me at a volunteer event last night, and she looked from me to my dad standing next to me. Her eyes lit up when she realized who he was.

"I just realized I have met you before!" she said. "I saw you smile and realized it was Kiley's smile, and I knew you were her dad."

Yes, my father and I have the same smile. We have the same puffy cheeks and the same puffy eyes, and the same squinty smile. In fact, I look a lot like my dad, although my dark eyes will always reflect my mom.

It was a wonderful couple of days spent with my dad this weekend. He drove hours just to visit for a little more than one day. When he got here, I almost didn't know what to do. Usually, people who want to visit just enjoy shopping, but my dad certainly wouldn't enjoy that. I rattled off a few ideas, and when I mentioned asparagus hunting, he looked intrigued.

Apparently my dad has never been asparagus hunting. He said my grandma would point it out on the roadway when they were kids, but they never stopped to get it. So we put on some boots and long sleeves to protect from ticks and headed out with a knife and plastic bag.

First, we had to find some asparagus so I could point out to him what we were looking for. Walking along one road ditch where I knew some asparagus was, we found two stalks that were just right for eating. Not bad at all.

Then he spotted some across the road, where I hadn't looked before. This first patch garnered a small handful, and continuing along the steep slope by a farm field we found more and more and more and more. In fact, we had so much my small hands couldn't hold the bundle, so Dad tied the bundle up with a piece of grass.

After a few more stops, we ended up with more asparagus than I had ever seen come from the wild.

It is so fun to find wild edibles like asparagus. Not only do you not have to pay for it, but it's also an enjoyable outdoor activity. We spent time in the sun. We got to bond. We have a shared experience and felt accomplished.

I'm all for technology, but having my job in conservation, I have learned a lot about the importance of slowing down and spending time outdoors. God provides us with so much outside our houses and away from our technology. He provides us with food and with opportunities for memory-making.

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day with a picture of two children standing in front of a lake. The picture said, "They'll never remember time spent in front of the TV."

You know what, that's true for children of any age. I certainly appreciated the time I spent with my dad outside that day, and I created a memory that I will have forever. I may be my dad's grown-up kid, but I'm still his kid, and I appreciate that he spent that time with me making memories.